Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First Weekend at Tucson, 2017

The title picture shows Tucson City Center Hotel, often still referred to as the Inn Suites. The date is Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, one day before its scheduled opening. This is the prime destination of mineral aficionados for 12 days leading up to the big show at Tucson's Convention Center, Feb. 12-15. Although the event did not officially open until Saturday, Jan. 28, more than a third of  several hundred dealers were selling a day early, as more than another third were busy setting up, Only a few dealer suites had yet to be occupied. Postcard weather prevailed with 60ish temperatures and a steady breeze. As happens every year prices seemed a bit higher and were all over the map.  Specimens ranged in price from a couple dollars up to amounts approaching six figures. With the exception of the one day Westward Look Show taking place the following Saturday, Feb. 4, more world class specimens are at the Inn Suites than anywhere else in town until the Big Show.

A few blocks north on Oracle, the much smaller Mineral and Fossil Marketplace was also up and running by Friday. Particularly worthy of mention here is a tent with three dealers: Rock Deco, JaM Rocks, and Malcolm Alter. All three  specialize in specimens from such classic Arizona localities as  the Mammoth St Anthony Mine in Tiger, the Rowley Mine, and the 79 Mine. There were  even a lot of  red wulfenite specimens from the Red Cloud Mine.  Nowhere else in Tucson did we see anywhere near  as many affordable specimens available for sale from these  great localities.

Immediately south of Mineral and Fossil Marketplace, in the direction of Inn Suites, the Moroccan tents were in full swing. Prices  on ubiquitous vanadinites, red quartz crystals, azurites, and so forth were unmarked and left to the buyers' ability to negotiate. With no deceit intended--- dealers readily admitted when asked about crystals that were treated---the Moroccans were selling some very colorful geodes as pictured at left. Both halves of one geode could be had for as little as $10. Therein were originally whitish quartz crystals,varied in color, some mimicking the deepest magenta high end cobaltoan calcites of the region. A few years ago, Moroccan quartz geodes were circulating with galena crystals glued inside them. Best avoided here or elsewhere  are Moroccan geodes filled with anything other than plain quartz crystals.

Other venues offering some minerals were also in full operation by Friday. Along the I-10 East Freeway, the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show at the Riverpark Inn was going strong. The usual Uruguayan Amethyst, pyrite from Peru, as well as typical Moroccan, Chinese, and quartz selections filled a big tent. Operating out of adjacent motel rooms in "The International Fine Mineral Building" were a couple dozen dealers, a few with unreasonably pricey collector mineral specimens. Heading down the Freeway from the Riverpark, the outdoor area at most  hotels consisted of shows that were  filled with tents and tables full of crystals, cabs, and rough material.
On the other side of the I-10 Freeway, the 22nd Street Show opened on Thursday, Jan. 26. Enclosed within a tent and easier to navigate than the Pueblo Show, it offered a mix of wares including some minerals. Most remarkable was a table offering native copper specimens, many with crystals, from Pine Mountain in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Hardly anywhere else in Tucson is one likely to encounter very many East Coast specimens. A better place to acquire them is the East Coast Gem Mineral, and Fossil Show at West Springfield, Massachusetts in August.

Several miles beyond the activity clustered along the Freeway, the Kino Gem and Mineral Show at Kino Sports Complex  was much like a combination of the aforementioned shows on steroids. Mostly jewelry and beads filled a huge tent. Outside were smaller tents, a few featuring minerals.  In addition to thousands---yes thousands---of tons of amethyst from Uruguay, Peruvian pyrite, the Moroccan tent, and an Indian tent was this show's  annual Geminex tent. Inside were thousands of mineral flats, all bearing low quality specimens at ridiculously high prices from the famous Ojuela Mine in Mapimi, Durango, Mexico.  Interestingly, and perhaps because the Big show in two weeks will feature minerals from the American Midwest, there was a dealer  whose entire stock was calcite crystals from the Elmwood Mine in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Such crystals seemed to be everywhere in Tucson this year, all priced about the same.

Not scheduled to start until Tuesday, Jan. 31, was a relatively small new show to feature mineral specimens mostly from Arizona dealers, at 1055 Grant Road.. We were sorry this was after we had to head back to Baltimore. Regretfully, we also missed a couple other  smaller shows  and managed to  briefly check out a couple that were marginally worthy of mention.

The scene in Tucson  is pretty much the same each year, always overwhelming.  For sale around town are millions of rocks, enough that it's difficult to imagine how more than a very meager fraction of a per cent could possibly sell. We question the economics of it,  but what fun.